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Current Measures on Radioactive Contamination in Japan: A Policy Situation Analysis

1,*, 2, 3, 1

PLoS ONE

Public Library of Science

4805182

10.1371/journal.pone.0152040

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      Abstract

      Background

      The Great East Japan Earthquake on 11th March 2011 and the subsequent Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster caused radioactive contamination in the surrounding environment. In the immediate aftermath of the accident the Government of Japan placed strict measures on radio-contamination of food, and enhanced radio-contamination monitoring activities. Japan is a pilot country in the WHO Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group (FERG), and through this initiative has an opportunity to report on policy affecting chemicals and toxins in the food distribution network. Nuclear accidents are extremely rare, and a policy situation analysis of the Japanese government’s response to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear accident is a responsibility of Japanese scientists. This study aims to assess Japan government policies to reduce radio-contamination risk and to identify strategies to strengthen food policies to ensure the best possible response to possible future radiation accidents.

      Methods and Findings

      We conducted a hand search of all publicly available policy documents issued by the Cabinet Office, the Food Safety Commission, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW), the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery (MAFF) and prefectural governments concerning food safety standards and changes to radiation and contamination standards since March 11th, 2011. We extracted information on food shipment and sales restrictions, allowable radio-contamination limits, monitoring activities and monitoring results. The standard for allowable radioactive cesium (Cs-134 and Cs-137) of 100 Bq/Kg in general food, 50 Bq/Kg in infant formula and all milk products, and 10 Bq/Kg in drinking water was enforced from April 2012 under the Food Sanitation Law, although a provisional standard on radio-contamination had been applied since the nuclear accident. Restrictions on the commercial sale and distribution of specific meat, vegetable and fish products were released for areas at risk of radioactive contamination. Monitoring of radioactive materials in food products in the prefectures has been mainly conducted before shipment to restrict the distribution of radio-contaminated foods. Between March 2011 and March 2012, 133,832 tests of non-commercial and commercial products were conducted, and 1,204 tests (0.9%) were found to violate the provisional standards. Since April 2012, 278,275 tests were conducted, and 2,372 tests (0.9%) were found to violate the revised standards. MHLW assessment of representative market baskets of foodstuffs at 15 locations throughout Japan between February and March 2014 found very low estimated dietary intake of radioactive cesium (0.0007–0.019 mSv/year), as did assessments of the contents of an average day’s food. Monitoring of fisheries products in coastal areas affected by the nuclear accident found very limited and declining radio-contamination of live fish outside of Fukushima prefecture. Fisheries monitoring is of limited geographical scope and covers only certain fishes.

      Conclusions

      Area-specific bans on production and distribution have been effective in preventing radioactive contamination in the Japanese food market. Currently there is no major concern about radioactive cesium concentrations in retail foodstuffs in Japan, and very low levels of contamination at the production and wholesale stage. However, because the residue limits and food safety policies were revised on an ad hoc, emergency basis after the nuclear accident, the monitoring procedure needs to be reviewed based on objective and scientifically rational criteria. A transparent and objective scientific framework is needed for prioritizing foodstuffs for inspection and revising Prefecture-specific restrictions. Monitoring of fishes and other seafood products in the wild should be regularized and the information made more publicly accessible, and monitoring activities expanded to identify foodstuffs that are no longer a food safety risk. Consultation with producers and consumers should be more formalized to ensure their concerns are incorporated into regular policy reviews in an appropriate and transparent manner. However, despite the limited available knowledge on best practice in food control and enforcement of provisional radio-contamination limits after the accident, current Japanese policy is sufficient to protect the Japanese public from major risk of radio-contamination from the commercial food market.

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      Most cited references 18

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      Internal radiation exposure after the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster.

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        Comparison of the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear accidents: a review of the environmental impacts.

        The environmental impacts of the nuclear accidents of Chernobyl and Fukushima are compared. In almost every respect, the consequences of the Chernobyl accident clearly exceeded those of the Fukushima accident. In both accidents, most of the radioactivity released was due to volatile radionuclides (noble gases, iodine, cesium, tellurium). However, the amount of refractory elements (including actinides) emitted in the course of the Chernobyl accident was approximately four orders of magnitude higher than during the Fukushima accident. For Chernobyl, a total release of 5,300 PBq (excluding noble gases) has been established as the most cited source term. For Fukushima, we estimated a total source term of 520 (340-800) PBq. In the course of the Fukushima accident, the majority of the radionuclides (more than 80%) was transported offshore and deposited in the Pacific Ocean. Monitoring campaigns after both accidents reveal that the environmental impact of the Chernobyl accident was much greater than of the Fukushima accident. Both the highly contaminated areas and the evacuated areas are smaller around Fukushima and the projected health effects in Japan are significantly lower than after the Chernobyl accident. This is mainly due to the fact that food safety campaigns and evacuations worked quickly and efficiently after the Fukushima accident. In contrast to Chernobyl, no fatalities due to acute radiation effects occurred in Fukushima. © 2013.
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          Limited Internal Radiation Exposure Associated with Resettlements to a Radiation-Contaminated Homeland after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster

          Resettlement to their radiation-contaminated hometown could be an option for people displaced at the time of a nuclear disaster; however, little information is available on the safety implications of these resettlement programs. Kawauchi village, located 12–30 km southwest of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, was one of the 11 municipalities where mandatory evacuation was ordered by the central government. This village was also the first municipality to organize the return of the villagers. To assess the validity of the Kawauchi villagers’ resettlement program, the levels of internal Cesium (Cs) exposures were comparatively measured in returnees, commuters, and non-returnees among the Kawauchi villagers using a whole body counter. Of 149 individuals, 5 villagers had traceable levels of Cs exposure; the median detected level was 333 Bq/body (range, 309–1050 Bq/kg), and 5.3 Bq/kg (range, 5.1–18.2 Bq/kg). Median annual effective doses of villagers with traceable Cs were 1.1 x 10-2 mSv/y (range, 1.0 x 10-2-4.1 x 10-2 mSv/y). Although returnees had higher chances of consuming locally produced vegetables, Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel test showed that their level of internal radiation exposure was not significantly higher than that in the other 2 groups (p=0.643). The present findings in Kawauchi village imply that it is possible to maintain internal radiation exposure at very low levels even in a highly radiation-contaminated region at the time of a nuclear disaster. Moreover, the risks for internal radiation exposure could be limited with a strict food control intervention after resettlement to the radiation-contaminated village. It is crucial to establish an adequate number of radio-contaminated testing sites within the village, to provide immediate test result feedback to the villagers, and to provide education regarding the importance of re-testing in reducing the risk of high internal radiation exposure.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1]Department of Global Health Policy, Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
            [2]Infectious Diseases Information Surveillance Office, Tuberculosis and Infectious Diseases Control Division, Health Bureau, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Tokyo, Japan
            [3]Division of Safety Information on Drug, Food and Chemicals, National Institute of Health Sciences, Tokyo, Japan
            University of South Carolina, UNITED STATES
            Author notes

            Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

            Conceived and designed the experiments: SG SM FK KS. Performed the experiments: SG SM FK. Analyzed the data: SG SM FK KS. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: SG SM FK KS. Wrote the paper: SG SM.

            Contributors
            Role: Editor
            Journal
            PLoS One
            PLoS ONE
            plos
            plosone
            PLoS ONE
            Public Library of Science (San Francisco, CA USA)
            1932-6203
            23 March 2016
            2016
            : 11
            : 3
            Tim A. Mousseau (Editor)
            © 2016 Gilmour et al

            This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

            Counts
            Figures: 2, Tables: 4, Pages: 12
            Product
            Self URI (pdf): pone.0152040.pdf
            Funding
            Funding : This research was supported by a Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare scientific research grant (H26-shokuhin-shitei-006) and a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science grant-in-aid for scientific research (Number 25253051). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
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